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The Melodic promise return visit soon following triumphant North American tour

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Interview with Huw Williams, Rudi Schmidt, and Lydia Samuels of The Melodic. I spoke with Huw, Lydia, and Rudi following the last show of their 2014 North American Winter Tour at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, which had sold out well in advance. The band, whose musical style reflects influences from around the world, captivated the audience with lovely, buoyant melodies, unusual instrumentation, and their uniquely charming repertoire.

Wendy:

How many dates did you play on this tour?

Huw:

We did a dozen gigs. We started in New York and we worked our way around the East Coast and up into Canada, and then across to the West Coast. It's been really varied because out on the East Coast [there were] arctic conditions and then when we got to California it was this drought that we came to, but we were in Heaven because the sun was shining.

Wendy:

Tonight was obviously fantastic, a big success. How has the rest of the tour been going?

Rudi:

It's been great touring with Johnny [Flynn]. Johnny and his friend Henry who's come along have been great to be on the road with - great company. Also the crowds have been amazing - really present and really supportive - great to play to.

Lydia:

I second that. They're a lovely crowd, Johnny's fans; they really listen. They seemed to warm to us straight away. I think that the two acts really complement each other.

Rudi:

It felt like they were ready to enjoy what we were doing from the first note which has been nice.

Wendy:

The Melodic has been together as a band for a relatively short period of time but I understand that some of you have been friends for a long time, since childhood.

Huw:

Me and Rudi went to school together; that goes back to when we were about 11 years old, so that's a long time. Me, Rudi and John [Naldrett], the bass player, have known each other for over a decade. Lydia we've known for less time - the whole lineup as The Melodica has come together in the last two years.

Wendy [to Huw and Rudi]:

You've known each other for all this time - when did you start playing music together?

Huw:

We started playing when we were about 16, after school. We were discovering new things, started playing music, started learning guitars at the same time.

Rudi:

A lot of our friends started to play music at the same time; a lot of our friends played piano.

Wendy [to Lydia]:

Speaking of piano, you studied piano pretty extensively - classical piano. That was your first instrument?

Lydia:

That was my first instrument. I didn't think I'd end up in a folk band, but I did (laughs).

Wendy:

What did you think your direction was at that point, when you were first starting to play?

Lydia:

I just thought I'd go into conservatoire and become a concert pianist, but this is much better and I think singing's much more interesting actually for me because it feels much more personal, 'cause your body is your instrument. I think I definitely get more out of singing than I did with piano, but obviously piano comes into the band because I play the melodica. It's useful for that.

Wendy:

You've been together as The Melodic for about two years, so has the new album [Effra Parade] been two years in the making?

Rudi:

It was a couple years in the making but we finished it about a year ago.

Lydia:

I'm not actually on the album; I joined just after it was finished.

Huw:

The album kind of came before The Melodic. The album was created with lots of different people on it - lots of guest musicians and people who came on to play instruments that none of us could play. When the album was actually finished the band took shape and now we've brought it out to America. As Lydia says, Lydia doesn't sing on the album - she appears on one or two bits, but we've been performing as The Melodic with this arrangement. It's quite a complicated thing - not very neat and tidy.

Wendy:

It's interesting though. Who are some of the musicians that you have with you on the album? Are they longtime friends?

Rudi:

It's a real mix of different people we know or we'd met. Some people we've known for longer - a guy who plays fiddle, Nick Pynn, he's a composer from Brighton. The reason he was at our house to record was that he was playing a show in London and he couldn't get back to Brighton because the snow had meant that the trains were cancelled, so he called my dad and stayed at my dad's house, got up in the morning, and we put him on the track.

Lydia:

And local musicians as well, just from the area.

Rudi:

Yeah, Sue Says, a local band who we've gotten to know from being in the area - they're Britain's premier afro-beat band; they play afro-beat and reggae and they work with a lot of big reggae producers. They play at a local pub twice a week - quite low key but really cool.

Lydia:

And you had [a] classical clarinet player, flutist...

Rudi:

Double bass, trumpet [player] - who's our old drummer's dad.

Lydia:

So a community of people playing on the album, and the album was recorded in Rudi's childhood bedroom. He moved out of his bedroom and moved into a squat down the road. We made his bedroom into a little studio.

Wendy:

So you self-produced the album. How did you learn production skills?

Huw:

That's mainly Rudi's forte, Rudi and his dad.

Rudi:

Experimenting, and a lot from my dad.

Lydia:

Rudi's dad's a sound editor for film.

Rudi:

Back in the day we would bang out - just write and record a song in a day and mix it.

Huw:

When we were first learning instruments there was this idea that the writing and recording were simultaneous, laying the ideas down as they came up. The song would be finished in a day, so the recording and learning to record and writing were the same thing. I think that's why Rudi, with the help of his dad, got really familiar and fluent in those techniques.

Wendy:

Obviously Lydia will be part of the next recording, which begs the question, do you have a second album in the works?

Rudi:

We've got half a dozen songs written and a few more that we've been working on. I think we will do an album later this year.

Lydia:

There are so many ideas; we just need to sit down and put them all in proper form.

Huw:

The idea of working toward an album will bring all those ideas into some kind of structure - they're all just floating around at the moment.

Rudi:

That's what a label's good for. Having a label's really good for deadlines because they tell you to finish things, 'cause artists generally - they're not that good at finishing things on their own.

Wendy:

You just released Effra Parade, so I imagine that you want to let people get familiar with this album and that there might not be a rush to get a second album out right away.

Rudi:

At the same time because we did finish a year ago, it would be really nice to start.

Lydia:

And I really want to contribute.

Rudy:

Same with our drummer James [McCandless]. He joined after [Effra Parade had been recorded].

Lydia:

He's got a really amazing style and it's gonna be exciting to have him on the second album.

Wendy:

You're now with ANTI-, right?

Huw:

Yeah, they're great. We're just about to go on tour with another band, Tinariwen, who's on ANTI-.

Lydia:

Also, another ANTI- band, Saintseneca - we're doing a tour with them.

Wendy:

So - more touring coming up in the near future.

Lydia;

Lots of touring!!

Wendy:

Where will you be touring?

Rudi:

America. We're touring into South by [SXSW] with Saintseneca, and then we've got a few shows at South by. We're touring out of it with Tinariwen, who we're really excited to tour with. We've been a fan of their music for quite a while, before they were signed to ANTI-. They've just released a new album which I heard today for the first time; it's really amazing. They're Tuareg people and they're from the desert in North Africa - different countries, but they got together in Mali. They play really amazing desert blues music, very groovy, a bit transcendental.

Lydia:

Once you hear it - you've never heard anything like it. It does have a big effect on you.

Wendy:

With Tinariwen you'll be touring the States again - what about your home country? Do you have any concerts planned there?

Huw:

We'll be returning to London and we'll be promoting the release of our album there; the album isn't out in the UK yet. We're gonna be doing some shows around the UK. We're actually organizing a mini-carnival to celebrate the album release in our local neighborhood, the neighborhood that a lot of us grew up in. Then we have a headline show in May, at club called XOYO on May the 7th in London.

For more information please visit www.themelodic.com

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